Don’t you love the exhilarating sight of water thundering over a cliff? What better place to watch waterfalls than Kauai, home to thousands of amazing waterfalls, some as high as 3,000 feet.
With about 90% of the island of Kauai undeveloped, unfortunately, many of the best Kauai waterfalls are not accessible directly.
Some of the best Kauai waterfalls are accessible, but not easily. You will need a 4×4 vehicle to get to the trailhead (Weeping Wall or the Wai’ele’ele Blue Hole Falls) or even kayak to a trailhead like the popular Secret (Uluwehi) Falls.
Our kids loved the jungle hike adventure, the two beautiful waterfalls, and the inviting pools at their bases, perfect to cool off in the hot and humid Hawaiian weather!
No wonder Ho’opi’i Falls is one of the most popular local haunts!
Join us on a virtual tour of Ho’opi’i Falls, and we will provide with the detailed tips you need to plan the visit!
Hey, by the way! Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour! Check out the five highest rated Kauai Helicopter tours for 2023!
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Ho’opi’i Falls is located in the lush Kealia Forest Reserve on the windward side of Kauai, near the town of Kapa’a.
Fan of the Jurassic Park movie series? The Hoopii Falls Trail hike, the lush green jungle surroundings and the two waterfalls will remind you a lot about Jurassic Park!
Recognize Hoopii Falls from a famous scene in the first Jurassic Park movie, where the lawyer visits the amber mines at the start of the movie? Supposedly in the Dominican Republic, but filmed right here, at the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls, in Kauai!
The Ho’opi’i Falls are actually two waterfalls over the Kapa’a Stream, separated by roughly half a mile: the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls and the Lower Ho’opi’i Falls.
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Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Hike: Fast Facts
Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Difficulty
The Ho’opi’i Falls Trail is rated as easy to moderate in difficulty.
In my opinion, the only two reasons the Hoopii Falls Trail may be rated moderately difficult is because the trail is overgrown with the jungle surroundings creeping into the path and the trail gets muddy and slippery after rains.
Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Length
The Ho’opi’i Falls Trail length is 0.9 miles for a total, round trip distance of 1.8 miles on this out-and-back hike.
The Upper Ho’opi’i Falls is roughly 0.5 miles into the trail, and the Lower Ho’opi’i Falls is another 0.4 miles hike.
Ho’opi’i Falls Elevation Gain
The Ho’opi’i Falls Trail elevation gain is about 160 feet.
The trail is flat for the most part, but climbing down and back up is involved if you want to go to the base of the Lower Ho’opi’i Falls.
Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Time Taken
The Ho’opi’i Falls Trail hike is a short one, the time taken on the trail is about an hour and a half on average.
The time for the your Hoopii Falls outing may vary depending on whether you indulge in swimming and cliff jumping!
What about Kids and Dogs on the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail?
Dogs on leash are allowed on the Hoopii Falls Trail.
The Hoopii Falls Trail is kid-friendly and I’ve seen many families with kids on the hike, but toddlers and seniors will find the hike difficult.
Getting to the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Head
Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Directions
From the coast or Highway 56, take Kawaihau Road, one of the main arteries through Kapa’a to Kapahi Road, a dead-end street.
The Hoopii Falls Trailhead is roughly halfway into Kapahi Road, in a residential neighborhood.
Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Parking
The Ho’opi’i Falls Trail parking is on Kapahi Road. You should park on the long gravel area along the shoulder of the road on your left.
Since this is a residential area, please respect the local residents property and privacy, and do not park on the residential side of the street.
We reached there about 8:30 am in the morning, and had no trouble finding a spot. When we returned from the hike, the parking area was quite full.
A public park (Kapahi Park) is about a 10 minute walk away.
Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Head
Look for a telephone pole with a sign marked “Quiet” using a Sharpie, and an arrow to the right.
The trailhead is next to that on the left side of the road, and you will need to go past a yellow fence / gate, partially covered under heavy vegetation, to enter the trail.
Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Reservations & Permit
Ho’opi’i Falls Trail needs no reservations or a permit. Parking is free along the Kapahi Road next to the trailhead.
Ho’opi’i Falls hike is one of the few completely free, family hikes in Kauai.
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Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Information
Please heed the posted signs at the trailhead and along the trail. You are in a residential area, and many side trails lead to private property, so stay on the main trail.
For the bulk of the Hoopii Falls Trail hike, you will be following the Kapa’a Stream downstream, so when in doubt, head downstream and you will continue to the Hoopii Falls.
Parallel to Kapa’a Stream, can be muddy. Stay within 10 feet of the water for the most part to be on state public land.
The trailhead and the initial entry to the trail is a bit obscured by heavy vegetation, but as you move in a few yards, a clearly defined mud trail is in front of you.
The initial section of the Hoopii Falls Trail is through a typical Hawaiian rainforest jungle, winding through the Kelia Forest Reserve.
You will be in lush green vegetation, towering trees forming a canopy over the trail, with thick green vines seeming to cover every available inch of tree trunk and branches.
The jungle floor is carpeted with tall green grass, huge ferns and more vines.
The trail has a modest downhill incline and within 0.2 miles (15 minutes or so), you hit the Kapa’a Stream. Depending on recent rains, you may encounter a mildly bubbling stream or a fast flowing, gushing stream.
The trail will continue parallel to Kapa’a Stream, heading downstream to the waterfalls.
You are on a nature trail in a rainforest jungle, expect a lot of mud, logs and tree trunks across the trail, and overgrown, exposed roots on the trail.
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Upper Ho’opi’i Falls (0.5 miles)
About 0.3 miles into the hike, you will come to a side trail that will take you to the base of the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls, a much safer trail than the one that goes down along the falls.
If you continue straight on the trail, you will reach the top of the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls, and you will hear the thunderous waterfall well before you see it.
The Upper Ho’opi’i Falls is surrounded by about 20+ feet high cliffs, overlooking the base of the waterfalls.
You may see a bunch of locals cliff diving into the waterfall pool below, this is a very popular local haunt, especially for kids after school. A small convenient path takes you back up for the next daredevil jump.
Obviously, if you don’t know what you’re doing, this is very risky, and there are rocks just beneath the surface. A tourist recently died cliff jumping, apparently hitting his head on a hidden rock.
The main Ho’opi’i Falls Trail continues downstream parallel to Kapa’a Stream.
Off and on, you may see some red junglefowl (or maybe runaway farm hens and roosters).
We spotted some pretty Hawaiian birds along the way, but you will need a good pair of binoculars to view them properly.
You may see some vehicle remains (engine chassis and tires) along the trail, and you’ll know you’re on the right track!
This section of the rainforest is quite similar to the first, and as beautiful.
Lower Ho’opi’i Falls (0.9 miles)
Again, you will hear the waterfall first and come to a fork on the trail (0.8 miles), with the right taking you to the bottom of the falls, and the left to the top of the falls.
We found the plunge pool at the base of the waterfall a lot more suitable for kids to splash around (obviously, check the water flow and be safe).
You will find a rope swing on one side of the stream that you and your kids can use to play Tarzan.
Return to the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Trailhead
The Ho’opi’i Falls Trail is an out-and-back trail, and you can retrace your steps back to the trailhead the same way you came.
Hawaiian Birds to Spot on the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail Hike
Make sure you take a good pair of binoculars with you, the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail hike is an excellent hike to spot some beautiful Hawaiian birds, both introduced to the islands and some endemic birds (found nowhere else)!
We managed to spot a few really pretty ones! You have to look for rustling leaves or moving branches, and focus your binoculars, quietly waiting for the birds to reveal themselves!
Some of the common Hawaiian birds you can expect to see are the rose-ringed parakeet (a highly invasive bird species), the red-crested cardinal (pretty red-headed birds with a crest), and the warbling white eye (with a characteristic white ring around its eyes).
You’ll probably hear the white-rumped shama, before you spot them. They are the most skilled songbird in Hawaii, and frequent forest streams.
Another small songbird you may see is the scaly-breasted munia, that feeds on grass seeds.
Hawaiian Plants, Trees and Flowers on the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail hike
The Ho’opi’i Falls Trail is a forest hike through the dense foliage of the lush, rainforest vegetation on the windward side of Kauai, with many common and easily identifiable Hawaiian plants, trees and flowers to look for!
Among Hawaiian plants, you should be able to spot the ohi’a lehua tree, a plant species endemic to Hawaii, and quite common and widespread in Kauai’s forests, and along the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail.
You can also expect to see the tall acacia koa, another of the native Hawaiian plants, native hala trees with their aerial tufted roots, banyan trees with their ever-widening canopy and aerial roots, eucalyptus trees and the invasive African albizia trees that form the rainforest canopy.
Other introduced Hawaiian plants, you’re likely to see are the highly invasive strawberry guava fruit trees.
Tips for Hiking the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail
The Hoopii Falls Trail conditions vary quite a bit. When we went the trail was not muddy except near the falls.
But I’ve heard after rains the trail can be muddy and slippery. Good hiking shoes and poles are recommended.
If you can waterproof your shoes, that will help a bit on the hike along the stream and the falls.
You have plenty of shade on the hike from the natural canopy of the rainforest trees. But bring a lot of water, since the weather is typically hot and humid.
A light rain poncho is a good idea, since you are in the windward side of the Kauai island.
We used bug spray and mosquito repellent liberally, and we were glad we did, since there were quite a few mosquitoes on the trail and near the falls.
Finally, the Ho’opi’i Falls trail head and parts of the trail are next to residential areas. Please lower your voices (sound travels easily in these parts), and keep the trail and area clean.
The Best Kauai Tours
Have you booked these top Kauai guided adventures yet?
Sunset catamaran tour of the Na Pali Coast (relatively more stable ride, insane views on good weather days!)
Doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai (unobstructed views, chance to see more of the island than you can by land, no middle seats!)
Kayak on the Wailua River plus hike to a waterfall (a super fun activity for active travelers, albeit a little muddy sometimes!)
Raft trip to the Na Pali Coast plus snorkeling (prepare to get wet on this exhilarating adventure!)
Eurocopter ECO-Star helicopter tour over Kauai (the most booked Kauai helicopter tour on Viator with close to 2K reviews and a 5-star rating!)
Renting a Car in Kauai
The best things to do in Kauai are scattered all over the island.
Public transport options on Kauai aren’t great, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Kauai trip.
We always use Discover Cars to book Kauai car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Lihue Airport-Hotel Shuttle
Not planning to pick up a rental car at Lihue airport? Pre-arrange round trip transfer from the airport to your hotel and back!
This shared shuttle serves hotels or vacation rentals in Princeville, Kahala, Poipu, Kapaa, or Lihue, and then back again. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
Where to Stay in Kauai
Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Kauai you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.
Since you’ll likely want to base in a couple places on your trip to Kauai, we suggest starting your search for Kauai accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO.
We have stayed in VRBO rentals in both Poipu and Princeville and find that the choice and quality are generally great.
Want detailed recommendations for accommodations in Kauai? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Kauai!
More Kauai Travel Inspiration
Considering a trip to the Garden Isle in Hawaii? You’ll definitely want to check out some of our other comprehensive Kauai travel and attraction guides!
If you are a first-time visitor to Kauai, start by discovering the best things to do in Kauai! From beaches and botanical gardens to cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls, Kauai has it all, and our round-up lists all of Kauai’s must-experience activities and attractions.
Read our in-depth guide to visiting the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. We give you the full scoop on the best ways to visit this stunning coast in the remote northwest of the island.
Discover our round-up of the nine spectacular state parks in Kauai, which house some of Kauai’s most treasured natural wonders.
Check out our round-up of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kauai, from waterfalls you can view from the road to falls that require hiking and falls that are best seen from a helicopter or sightseeing flight.
Read our guide to Wailua River State Park to discover two easy-to-access Kauai waterfalls, and our trail guide for the easy hike to Ho’opi’i Falls. We also have an article on the best Kauai waterfall hikes.
And if a helicopter tour is part of your plans for Kauai, read our article on the top-rated helicopter tours in Kauai!
We also have a trail guide for the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s scenic south shore, an article on how to hike the Sleeping Giant Trail, and a guide to the Kuilau Ridge Trail, one of the easy hikes on Kauai.
Get the scoop on the best botanical gardens in Kauai, from Limahuli Garden on the north shore to McBryde and Allerton Gardens on the south shore.
Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei, the charming town that sits in the middle of Kauai’s scenic north shore.
Read our guide to the best swimming beaches on Kauai, from Hanalei Bay on the north shore to Poipu Beach on the south shore! We also have a guide to the best snorkeling beaches on Kauai, and a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches.
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